Today, President Barack Obama was joined by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), the renowned Civil Rights activist and Attorney General Loretta Lynch as he spoke on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Obama commented on the need for lawmakers to restore voting protections reduced by in a 2013 Supreme Court decision.
“This has to be a priority,” Obama said. “If this isn’t working, then nothing is working. We have to get it done.”
The Supreme Court decision that has been causing a divide in the debate on election laws is Shelby County vs. Holder. The case struck down the requirement for nine states including North Carolina and Texas that have historically practiced discriminatory voting practices to have their newer elections laws reviewed and accepted by the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C.
Republican states have since enacted various voting laws, one of them forcing civilians to come with forms of ID at the booth. This item frequently alienates voters with marginalized socioeconomic backgrounds like Blacks, Latinos as well as lower and/or senior class citizens because despite their status as citizens, they may not have the physical documents required to cast a ballot. Republicans in support of greater voter restrictions argue that such laws help reduce voter fraud, but Democrats view such measures as unnecessary and restrictive towards minorities.
Two bills have been brought onto the floor in the Senate and House of Representatives to reverse the 2013 Supreme Court decision that would help reconfigure voting protections by requiring the nine states in question to have pre-clearance of their election laws again.
The Voting Rights Act was enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 after various protests from Freedom Fighters throughout the American South. Johnson finally signed the bill following the infamous “Bloody Sunday,” a day in which protestors marching from Selma to Montgomery, AL and were brutally beaten by police officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The Act ensured voting freedoms for millions of minorities that were previously held back by intimidation tactics, poll taxes, literacy tests, civics quizzes and violence. The act motivated approximately 250,000 Blacks to vote between August and December of 1965. Resultantly, Blacks have been taking advantage of their voting rights, as statistics have shown that they have frequently had greater turnout than white counterparts in presidential elections since 1965.
Advocates for voting rights are now stressing the need to fix the Voting Rights Act, as current restrictive voting regulations can reverse the advances made in securing voting rights for minority communities.